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As Myanmar has opened its doors to the world, it reveals a people still tied to ancient traditions and a country bursting with cultural treasures—a combination that makes
it a magical photographic destination. In the company of a National Geographic photographer, capture images of monks and artisans, lively markets and sparkling temples. Set out on sunrise and sunset photo shoots, and enjoy rare opportunities to document prayer ceremonies and traditional dancers. Catch the sunrise on the stupa-studded plains of Bagan, and photograph fishermen poling past the floating gardens of Inle Lake.
Take photos of the enchanting Bagan plain at sunrise, and then participate in an exclusive nighttime shoot at one of the temples.
Capture a lamp-lighting ceremony at Yangon's glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, and focus on monks at prayer in Mandalay.
During a special dinner under the stars in Bagan, enjoy temple views and an opportunity to photograph a traditional dance performance.
Document a thrilling boat race between the leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake, and cruise to seldom-visited Sagar to zoom in on its haunting sunken stupas.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Yangon, Myanmar
Fly to Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar’s former capital, and transfer to our centrally located hotel. Get oriented to the city on an afternoon walking tour, and enjoy a welcome reception and dinner this evening. Sule Shangri-La Hotel (D)
Day 2 — Yangon
Begin the day with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Under the early morning sunlight, capture the shimmering stupas of this gilded pagoda, tipped with more than 4,500 diamonds. Document the bustle of the nearby Bahan Market, and then practice portraiture with the monks of the Kalaywa Tawya Monastery and School Project. After lunch at a teahouse, see the colossal reclining Buddha that stretches more than 200 feet at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda. Attend an evening talk on Myanmar’s changing political climate. Sule Shangri-La Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Yangon/Mandalay
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Mandalay. Zoom in on the intricate teak engravings of the Shwe Nandaw Monastery, a masterpiece of 19th-century woodcarving. Then travel to Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to 729 chiseled marble slabs etched with Buddhist scriptures. Visit a gold-leaf workshop to photograph artisans plying their centuries-old craft. Continue to the ancient capital of Inwa this afternoon, and hop in horse-carts to visit Nan Myint Tower, Maha Aung Mye Bonzan Monastery, and the teak Bagaya Monastery. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Mandalay
Board a riverboat and join our photographer on deck for a sunrise shoot as we sail to Mingun—home to a massive, unfinished pagoda. Explore the Mingun Pagoda Complex to see the 18th-century Pahtodawgyi Pagoda before returning to Mandalay in time to photograph monks at an almsgiving. This afternoon, visit Sagaing, where myriad pagodas gleam white and gold on rolling green hillsides. Take panoramic shots of this stunning landscape from the hilltop Sun Oo Ponya Shin Pagoda, and work on portraiture during a visit to a nearby convent. Then capture the sunset over the Irrawaddy River before returning to our hotel. Mandalay Hill Resort (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Mandalay/Bagan
Photograph the sunrise from U Bein Bridge—the world’s longest teak footbridge, spanning nearly 4,000 feet. After breakfast, stroll down “marble street,” a quaint lane lined with marble-carving workshops. Frame workers trimming, carving, and polishing the white stone, and take a series of photos depicting the many variations of Buddha lining the street. End your walk at the Mahamuni Buddha, one of Myanmar’s most revered Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Then fly to Bagan and settle into our hotel before dinner. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Bagan
During the 11th and 12th centuries, some 10,000 temples, stupas, and monasteries were built on the Bagan plain. Today, the remains of more than 2,200 of these structures still dot the landscape. Float high over Bagan at sunrise on an optional balloon ride, practicing aerial photography as the sun rises among crumbling temples. After breakfast, visit the gold-plated Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan’s greatest reliquary. Then frame the 13th-century murals at Gubyaukgyi Temple, and photograph Htilominlo Temple, a fine example of stucco carving. This afternoon, ride a horse-cart through the local village of Ashay PwaSaw Ywar before documenting the sunset from a perch overlooking the Bagan plain. Cap off the day with an exclusive after-dark photo shoot at one of the temples. Bagan Lodge (B,L)
Day 7 — Bagan
This morning, take the opportunity to photograph the sunrise near the village of Minnanthu before continuing to Tayok Pyi temple to frame the carved stucco walls and well-preserved frescoes. Attend a novice initiation ceremony for children preparing to become monks, and document the pageantry of this 2,500-year-old tradition. After lunch, learn how local palm wine is made at a toddy palm farm, and stop in at a lacquerware workshop to watch artisans transform bamboo, wood, and horsehair into stunning serving wear. Take in temple views during a special dinner under the stars, and work on motion and panning techniques while enjoying a traditional dance performance. Bagan Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Bagan/Inle Lake
After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly to Heho. Upon arrival, drive to Inle Lake, visiting Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery and Yawnghwe village along the way. Enjoy an afternoon cruising the lake, photographing floating villages and disembarking to document local artisans at a cheroot factory and a weaving workshop. This afternoon, visit the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and snap shots of five Buddha images so smothered in gold leaf that they have lost all trace of their original forms. Then capture the lake’s famous leg-rowing fishermen in action during an exciting boat race. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Inle Lake
After an optional sunrise photo shoot, travel to the seldom-visited village of Sagar, home to hill tribe communities and known for its sunken stupas that are partially submerged in the lake. Visit the Takhaung Mwetaw monastery and walk the village paths, photographing local residents before spending time among the captivating temples. Capture the stillness of the lake during a sunset photo shoot with the Intha fishermen, and then return to our lakefront hotel. Villa Inle Resort & Spa (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Inle Lake/Heho/Yangon
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Heho and catch our return flight to Yangon. Browse local handicrafts at the Bogyoke Aung San Market this morning. Later, return to the Shwedagon Pagoda and enjoy a chance to photograph local families and pilgrims strolling and socializing beneath this extraordinary temple. Then participate in—or photograph—a lamp-lighting ceremony before we toast our journey at a festive farewell dinner. Sule Shangri-La Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Yangon/Home
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
Nevada Wier is an award-winning photographer specializing in documenting the remote corners and cultures of the world. Her journeys have taken her throughout the deserts, mountains, and urban jungles of the globe. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic magazine, Geo, National Geographic Traveler, Outdoor Photographer, Outside, and Smithsonian. She is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club and a member of the Women’s Geographic Society. Nevada has been traveling to Myanmar since 1986, and is currently working on a book about the country.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,600. The optional balloon ride on Day 6 is $350. Airfare to/from Yangon and within Myanmar is not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within Myanmar are $525 per person (subject to change).
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
This trip includes numerous village and temple visits that require walking over uneven terrain, boarding local boats, and climbing stairs in often hot and humid conditions. We will frequently be required to remove socks and shoes to enter religious sites. Travelers should be in good health and physically fit.